OVER two weeks ago, the newly and reappointed members of the Bangsamoro Parliament for the extended transition period gathered at Malacañan Palace in Manila for their oath-taking before President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. Their term officially started on the day that they were sworn in, i.e., from Aug. 12, 2022, until the month (June) after the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao's (BARMM) first elections in May 2025. Forty-one of these parliament ministers (PMs) are appointees of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), while 39 are appointees of the national government. These PMs are expected to complete the region's vital pieces of legislation and will continue working on the transition government's priority agenda.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. speaks to the new officials of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority Parliament in Malacañang on Aug. 12, 2022. PHOTO FROM THE BONGBONG MARCOS FACEBOOK PAGE
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. speaks to the new officials of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority Parliament in Malacañang on Aug. 12, 2022. PHOTO FROM THE BONGBONG MARCOS FACEBOOK PAGE

The BARMM's Public Information, Publication and Media Relations Division (PIPMRD) provided interesting brief profiles of the 80 PMs. Forty-nine are reappointees, while 31 are new. The MILF has 13 new appointees, while the national government has 18. I believe that the process of choosing the PMs was done judiciously by the MILF and the national government, after the Philippine government's approval of the BARMM's three-year transition extension in October 2021. The selection criteria are based on the PMs' experiences, competencies and potential contributions to the attainment of the transition government's goals in the next 33 months.

The PMs' profiles from the PIPMRD did not include their age. Their individual photos, however, indicate that the Bangsamoro Parliament's current membership includes the youth, middle-aged and senior leaders of the region's three major ethnicities, i.e., the Moro, non-Moro Indigenous people and migrant settlers. The parliament is composed of former MILF combatants and peace agreement negotiators, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members, lawyers, doctors, economists, engineers, an architect, teachers, finance consultants, business people, current and former regional and local government officials, political analysts, religious leaders, nongovernment officers and youth leaders. I can imagine the dynamic interactions, debates and negotiations to arrive at a confluence of ideas during the parliament's sessions among these PMs who represent varied fields of interests and expertise.

Thirty-two (out of the 80) PMs are from Maguindanao, BARMM's largest province. Lanao del Sur and Sulu have 12 PMs each. North Cotabato has seven PMs, Basilan has five, Cotabato City has four, Tawi-Tawi has three, and Marawi City has one. I noted that the MILF has appointed four PMs who do not reside in the BARMM. Three are male MILF reappointees who have played important roles in the MILF's struggle for peace and normalization — Hussein Palma Muñoz (the Minister of Public Order and Safety since 2019) from Davao Oriental, Abdullah Goldiano Macapaar and Said Manggis Shiek from Lanao del Norte. The fourth PM is a new female appointee from Davao City — lawyer Mary Ann Madrono Arnado, the secretary-general of Mindanao Peoples' Caucus and the convenor of the Bantay Ceasefire (Ceasefire Watch). She has provided legal support to the MILF and has actively advocated for the extension of the BARMM's transition phase.

There are 15 female ministers in the current membership of the Bangsamoro Parliament. This number represents around one-fifth (19 percent) of the total number of PMs. This percentage is close to the proportion of women (23 percent) in the current House of Representatives of the Philippine Congress. Ten of these female PMs are reappointees, while six are new. Their credentials and work experiences are very impressive. Five are lawyers, two are engineers, one is a medical doctor, three are nongovernment officers, one is a journalist/publisher, and three are former and current government high-level officials. These female MPs will no doubt develop, enhance and support important legislation, policies and programs for the protection of the rights and empowerment of women and girls in the region.

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There is one remarkably interesting description of the seven young PMs' profiles, because their affiliations with known MILF and MNLF leaders (who were contenders in the past) are included in the PIPMRD publication. Three are from Maguindanao: 1) Mudjib Compania Abu, the son of Ghazali Jaafar, deceased former chairman of the BTC and MILF vice chairman for political affairs; 2) Suharto Sandayan Esmael, son of former BTA MP Abduladzis Esmael; and 3) Tawakal Buga Midtimbang, son of former BTA MP Datu Antao Midtimbang; b) North Cotabato: Abdullah Biston Hashim, son of MILF founder Hashim Salamat; c) Lanao del Sur: Dr. Marjanie Salic Macasalong, son of deceased MILF vice chairman for military affairs Abdullazis Mimbantas; and d) Sulu: 1) Abdulkarim Tan Misuari, son of MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari, and 2) Nurredha Ibrahim Misuari, daughter of Misuari. I believe that these young ministers' collaboration in the parliament is a significant development to foster peace and unity among the youth in the region. They will surely hold leading roles in charting the BARMM's future directions.

The next 33 months will be a hectic and challenging period for the PMs and their supporting staff to finish the critical legislation and agenda of the Bangsamoro transition government. I wish them the best and to stay safe amid the continuing pandemic.